Daily Operation

Bronchiolitis: One-Way Ticket to Suck City, Pt. 2

So, the revolving door that has become the pediatricians ($25 admission with sometimes additional fees) and the garbage disposal of medication that has become my daughter who is now being given more syrupy sticky fluids and inhalants than I can even keep track of (thanks, lovely wife) is our new reality. Baby comes out seemingly healthy, good weight, good length. Happy baby. Has a food allergy, we know, but nothing that we can defeat by breaking the piggy bank and buying hot goods online. Fast-forward a few months and she’s an absolute wreck. Has a cold she can’t shake. No one seems to know what’s going on. Mommy’s living in a constant state of worry. Daddy is stumbling through some sort of pharmaceutical Land of the Lost where nothing makes any kinda sense at all. The Walgreens pharmacy team knows me by name and now asks how the dogs are doing. I volunteer to make runs so I can get a free back massage in the demo massage chair they have up there and, I’ll put it this way, my back issues I was having are long gone.

Oh, and no one’s getting sleep around here because, every night, there’s about three to five coughing fits that, without fail, will pull you out of any dreamscape that you’re in.

Fast-forward to Sunday morning. I’m out on my 16-mile run. I get home and my lovely wife alarms me that Ellison puked the bed. Great. She’s developed a pretty nasty rash on her back. Looks like she’s been lashed with a whip. Her eyes are glassy. The smile’s gone. Temperature was good. Appetite wasn’t great. It was starting to look like another visit to the pediatrician on Monday. I was emptying my schedule on Monday morning in my head. My lovely wife hasn’t had any sick time since she had Ellison. Overdrawn.

That night, it all hit the fan. We both doze off around ten. I hit the deepest sleeping state that I’ve managed in months. Out cold. Then, it happened. I hear this seal bark of a cough followed by a screeching sound through our baby monitor. My lovely wife snaps to her feet and runs in there, again, like Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist. I’ve always likened that run down the hallway to the scene where Ellen’s character hears her daughter screaming like Lucifer himself in her bedroom and she runs up the stares in a completely freaked state to open the door like some sort of bad parental episode of “Let’s a Make a Deal.”

Door one: Child levitating

Door two: Child speaking Latin and stabbing herself with a crucifix (blame the maid service for the crucifix that was put under her mattress)

Door three: Child’s head turns a full 360° while furniture is thrown around the room

Same reaction from Ellen Burstyn every time. Something like this:

My lovely wife leaves our room, turns off the monitor on the way (a courteous thing to do as the parent getting up to guarantee that the parent left in the bed can be left to sleep). I drift back off to sleep until a few minutes later, she returns into our room with Ellison in her arms. Her voice is panicked like I’ve never heard. “Oh my God, honey. She’s burning up.” Ellison moaning. I reach out to touch her and before I can feel her, I can sense the heat coming off of her on my bare hand. That’s a freaking fever.

“Her temperature is almost 103°! I don’t know what to do!”

Let the freakfest begin. I run and grab a couple of cold wet rags, we strip her down to nothing and begin gently rubbing her flailing body. She’s a bright reddish hue. Her rash on her back is blazing. It’s covering the majority of her body. This girl is as sick as I’ve ever seen. I tell my lovely wife, “We’re going to the emergency room. Don’t put any clothes on her. Keep her as naked as possible.” I drop the temperature in the house to 60° and close all vents in the house except for Ellison’s room while we get ready. Fans are on high.

It takes us about three to five minutes to get clothed and dash off to the hospital. Windows down all the way. Make it as cold and miserable as we can for her.

When we get there, we’re quickly taken to triage. The next few hours were an absolute blur that included a few guest appearances from a nurses, doctors, respiration nurses, a couple of drunks and a nap. They took X-rays of her lungs. Asked us the typical arsenal of questions. “Are you giving her the breathing treatments? Do you have any cats? What medication is she taking?” Geez, what medication is she not taking?

X-rays came back negative. RSV test came back negative. The doctor comes in, sits down next to us and gently breaks us the news. “What we have here guys is a baby with bronchiolitis.” I’m not sure if it showed in my facial expression, but I remember thinking I’m gonna kill this man with my bare hands right here in the emergency room.

I collect my thoughts. Put my words in order and, as hard it as it was with only two hours of sleep, I deliver to the best of my ability the best reply that I could muster and it sounded something like this. “Sir, with all due respect, we’ve been hearing that since January and we’ve been diligently doing the breathing treatments, we have her on more antibiotics and steroids than I can even keep track of and nothing seems to be helping and we keep hearing that it’s bronchiolitis.”

“That’s because that’s what it is,” he returns.

“But when we were first given that diagnosis, we did what we were told. Nothing helped. We’ve gone back to the pediatrician four or five times since and it’s all we hear. No one told us this crap could be a long term condition and now we’re in the emergency room with a 103° temperature and we still hear it’s bronchiolitis. Surely you can see where we’re frustrated.”

“I can. Bronchiolitis is sometimes very difficult for young babies to shake. Just be glad it’s nothing worse.”

With that said, some seven hours later, we’re admitted into pediatrics for further observation and medication.

Our stay in the hospital was actually pretty pleasant compared to past stays. Ellison got better and better from the moment she got up there, albeit, very gradually. It didn’t happen in a matter of hours. The fever seemed to take forever to break. After getting the IV put into the top of her foot (that was impressive to watch), her trust of all hospital personnel was completely voided and absent. Anyone that walked through the door was not there to help, but rather a threat to her coziness. We called them ninja nurses because they’d all walk in with their masks on. It was like an old kung fu flick. We’d be sitting there watching something on the TV or playing with a toy and then the door would open and three nurses would walk in with their devices, machines, robots, boxes that light up. Ellison would kinda sit up and just size them up as they surrounded her. It’s almost like she was getting ready for war.

She meant business. She’d punch, kick, spit, scream. It’d be an all-out assault using all weapons and defenses that a seven-month old could muster up. At one point, she used her kung fu grip to grab a nurses gown and almost pull it off of her. Stethoscopes were the easiest to mess with. Rectal thermometers were the hardest. There was no getting around those. Once they went in, she’d freeze up. Don’t want to make matters worse when you have something crammed up your butt.

We were later told that Ellison does have RSV, however, at the point that you feel like you’ve been to hell and back, that came as very little surprise. It was like, “So she has RSV.” Cool, what’s for lunch?

While in the hospital, we did most of the stuff we were doing at home except their tools there are much better than the ones we have at home. The suction device that pulls snot from her nose is a motorized device that does work. I have a bulb syringe I use at the house, but this thing would take everything with it. I was scared it was gonna start sucking out brain matter. The nebulizer they have the hospital works a lot faster and a lot quieter. We spent two and a half days in the hospital. We’re back home now. It was a grueling experience. There’s something to seeing your child in the hospital that kinda puts everything in order for you. Nothing resets life’s priorities like seeing your child with an IV in her.

Of all the things I’ve written about on here, I’ve failed to mention the bronchiolitis because it’s been such the bane of our existence and felt like I couldn’t objectively assess it without becoming angry and not-so fun to be around. Reality is when it lands your family in the hospital, it’s probably time to get it out there.

Here are a few pointers that I’d say with bronchiolitis. It’s not a full list, but this is what this whole experience for Ellison’s family boils down to:

  1. Don’t get frustrated…the power of good communication, something I wish our pediatrician’s staff told us: bronchiolitis cannot be cured overnight or even in the course of a week. It’s a condition that can sometimes last up to years. You don’t medicate it like you do a cold. Their bronchioles are so small and weak that it’s a funk that can just be shaken off like an adult can.
  2. RSV and bronchiolitis should probably just be called the same thing…they’re pretty much the same thing. If you get diagnosed with bronchiolitis, just round up to RSV. It’s not a death sentence, but don’t act like they’re independent of each other. They’re really not. Accept it and deal with it.
  3. Breathing treatments are not an option…do them as much as you can. Even if you don’t think she needs it, do it. It doesn’t hurt. Follow the directions diligently. Don’t take any short cuts and don’t let off the pressure.
  4. The power of a good pat on the back…patting on the back during or between coughing fits helps loosen up the garbage in her lungs. Give her a good granny-slapping on the mid-part of her back to help knock some of that funk loose. Babies don’t know how to hawk a loogie so you have to basically make one for them. Patting on the back helps facilitate that.
  5. Bronchiolitis makes them more susceptible to many things…Bronchiolitis is like having a fly trap in her lungs for sickness. Allergies, common colds, influenza, etc. are all threats to sticking in her lungs for an extended stay. Treat it very seriously. You don’t have to put her in a bubble, but during cold season, be really careful with what she touches, who she’s around. We happened to be going through this crap during the transitionary period from cold season to allergy season as she’s teething and putting everything in her mouth. Probably has something to do with it. She’d put your forehead in her mouth if she could fit it. Sterilize everything. You can’t be too safe. Whatever everyone else can get, a baby with bronchiolitis is four to five times more susceptible and, here’s the kicker, it’s harder for them to get over. Double whammy.
  6. Love that kid like crazy…if you didn’t already, better learn.

That’s all. Tomorrow’s Friday and the fortieth reason why Girls are Cool. Brace yourself.

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